Friday, 19 December 2008

Celebrity Chess - Stanley Kubrick on 'The Shining' (Film) and Chess


Stanley Kubrick (1928 - 1999):

Stanley Kubrick was a brilliant, yet reclusive, American film director, screenwriter and producer. He was taught chess by his father at around the age of 12 years, and maintained an interest in the game throughout his life. This chess excerpt comes from an interview with Stanley Kubrick on the film 'The Shining' - from the book "Kubrick" by the film critic Michel Ciment.

You are a chess-player and I wonder if chess-playing and its logic have parallels with what you are saying?

First of all, even the greatest International Grandmasters, however deeply they analyse a position, can seldom see to the end of the game. So their decision about each move is partly based on intuition. I was a pretty good chess-player but, of course, not in that class. Before I had anything better to do (making movies) I played in chess tournaments at the Marshall and Manhattan Chess Clubs in New York, and for money in parks and elsewhere. Among a great many other things that chess teaches you is to control the initial excitement you feel when you see something that looks good. It trains you to think before grabbing, and to think just as objectively when you're in trouble. When you're making a film you have to make most of your decisions on the run, and there is a tendency to always shoot from the hip. It takes more discipline than you might imagine to think, even for thirty seconds, in the noisy, confusing, high-pressure atmosphere of a film set. But a few seconds' thought can often prevent a serious mistake being made about something that looks good at first glance. With respect to films, chess is more useful preventing you from making mistakes than giving you ideas. Ideas come spontaneously and the discipline required to evaluate and put them to use tends to be the real work.

Did you play chess on the set of The Shining as you did on Dr. Strangelove (with George C. Scott) and on 2001?

I played a few games with Tony Burton, one of the actors in the film. He's a very good chess-player. It was very near the end of the picture and things had gotten to a fairly simple stage. I played quite a lot with George C. Scott during the making of Dr. Strangelove. George is a good player, too, but if I recall correctly he didn't win many games from me. This gave me a certain edge with him on everything else. If you fancy yourself as a good chess-player, you have an inordinate respect for people who can beat you.